Prior Park College
|Motto||Deo Duce Deo Luce|
Day, full boarding & weekly boarding school
|Chair||Mr A M H King|
|Founder||Congregation of Christian Brothers|
|Location||Ralph Allen Drive
|DfE URN||109347 Tables|
|Students||circa 590 students|
|Houses||Allen, Arundell, Burton, Clifford, English, Fielding, Roche, St Mary's, Baines|
|Colours||Navy and Cyan|
Prior Park College is a mixed Roman Catholic public school for both day and boarding students. Situated on a hill overlooking the city of Bath, Somerset, in southwest England, Prior Park has been designated by Historic England as a Grade I listed building.
The Prior Foundation consists of Prior Park College, the Paragon Junior School (Bath) and Prior Park School Gibraltar.
Founded in 1830 to be England's first Catholic university, Prior Park College has remained a Roman Catholic school. It was established by the Benedictine, Bishop Baines, as a seminary, and provides co-educational schooling for students aged 11 to 18 in the Catholic tradition and ecumenical spirit.
In July 2009, Giles Mercer retired. He had been head teacher since 1996, and with his previous position as head of Stonyhurst College, he became the "longest serving Catholic senior school headmaster in England". His successor was James Murphy-O'Connor, nephew of former Prior Park pupil Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.
The school is part of the Prior Park Foundation which includes the Paragon Junior School, also in Bath.
One wing of the mansion includes a chapel of our Lady of the Snows, built in 1863 by Scoles and Son which is Grade I listed; there is also a chapel in the original house.The chapel is unfinished, with the pillars at the back remaining unsculpted as they were in 1863.
Prior Park Landscape Garden was laid out between 1734 and 1744 with the Allens benefiting during the first phase from the advice of their friend Alexander Pope. The Palladian bridge and the lake that it spans were added in 1755; the final phase with the green slopes from the house to the lake are thought to have been planned by Capability Brown in the 1760s. The garden is now owned by the National Trust.
In 1828 Bishop Baines purchased the mansion for £22,000 and used it as a seminary named the Sacred Heart College. Renovations were made according to designs by H. E. Goodridge in 1834. The seminary was closed in 1856 after a fire in 1836 caused extensive damage and subsequent renovation caused financial insolvency. The estate was later bought by Bishop Clifford who founded a Roman Catholic grammar school.
The Chapel was designed by J. J. Scoles in 1844 but not completed until 1863, following 18th-century French models such as Chalgrin's St. Philippe-du-Roule in Paris. Pevsner describes it as "without any doubt the most impressive Chapel interior of its date in the county".
The grammar school closed in 1904 and the estate was occupied by the army during the First World War and by a series of tenants until 1921; the Christian Brothers founded a boys' boarding school in 1924. Prior Park College continues to occupy the main house. In 1993 11.3 hectares (28 acres) of the park and pleasure grounds were acquired by the National Trust and have been extensively restored.
The mansion has been victim of fire twice. The 1836 event left visible damage to some stonework. The 1991 fire gutted the interior, except for parts of the basement. Rebuilding took approximately three years. Unusually, the blaze started on the top floor, and spread downwards.
Prior Park uses The Monument Field, a previously National Trust-owned site named after a triangular Gothic building with a round tower erected by Bishop Warburton. It has a circular staircase and contains a tablet inscribed in Latin in honour of Ralph Allen.
Since 2000, improvements include an indoor swimming pool, an Information and communications technology centre, and classroom extensions including the Mackintosh Dance Studio and Theatre (2006), the Art & Design Centre (September 2014) and the Bury Sports Centre (April 2015). Sports facilities are located on site.
Former preparatory school
In 1946 the Congregation of Christian Brothers opened a preparatory school linked to Prior Park College, at Calcutt Street, Cricklade, Wiltshire. The school's main building was the late-19th century Manor House, with extensive grounds. At first a boarding school for boys, the school admitted day boys in the 1970s. After the Brothers left Bath and Cricklade in 1980, the school was sold and came under lay management but kept its name, Prior Park Preparatory School. Later, girls were admitted, and the school catered for ages 3-13, with boarding available from age 7. In January 2015 there were 205 pupils.
Since September 2017, the school is no longer linked to Prior Park. Its name changed to Cricklade Manor Prep and it is one of the Wishford Schools group of preparatory schools.
Notable former pupils
- Stephen Bowman, member of Brit Award winning band Blake
- Leonard Calderbank, Roman Catholic priest
- Damian Cronin, Bath and Scotland rugby player
- Adam "Nolly" Getgood, guitarist
- Charles Kent (1823–1902), poet, biographer and journalist
- Peter Levi, University of Oxford educator
- Christopher Logue, CBE, poet
- Sir Ken Macdonald QC, Director of Public Prosecutions of England and Wales, head of the Crown Prosecution Service
- Sir Cameron Mackintosh, British theatrical producer (formerly partnered with composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber) 
- Gabriel Makhlouf, Secretary to the New Zealand Treasury
- Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster 
- Michael Please, BAFTA winning animator 
- John Patrick Savage, Canadian politician
- Hugh Scully, broadcaster 
- John Aloysius Ward, former Archbishop of Cardiff 
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- "Stephen comes home in glory after Brit Award". classicalx.com. 26 September 2011. Archived from the original on 5 April 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
- Fairall, Barrie (3 February 1995). "Cronin reborn as the demolition man". London, UK: independent.co.uk. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
- "Psalm of Lydia Sweeps". 28 January 2008.
- "Prior Park College". anglo-chinese.com. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
- "Prior Park Gossip Bowl 2007" (PDF). Retrieved 15 March 2008.
- "Sir Cameron opens the Macintosh Studio at Prior Park College". cliftondiocese. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
- Thomson, Alice; Sylvester, Rachel (14 February 2009). "Cardinal Comac Murphy-O'Connor:Recession may be jolt that selfish Britain needs". London, UK: timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
- "Former prior park students win bafta". somerset.greatbritishlife.co.uk. 14 February 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
- Stanford, Peter (28 March 2007). "The Rt Rev John Ward". London, UK: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
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